Data from: Comparative analysis of microbiota along the length of the gastrointestinal tract of two tree squirrel species (Sciurus aberti and S. niger) living in sympatry
Bono, Jeremy et al. (2020), Data from: Comparative analysis of microbiota along the length of the gastrointestinal tract of two tree squirrel species (Sciurus aberti and S. niger) living in sympatry, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.931zcrjfn
Microbiota inhabiting the gastrointestinal (GI) tract of animals have important impacts on many host physiological processes. Although host diet is a major factor influencing the composition of the gut microorganismal community, few comparative studies have considered how differences in diet influence community composition across the length the GI tract. We used 16S sequencing to compare the microbiota along the length of the GI tract in Abert’s (Sciurus aberti) and fox squirrels (S. niger) living in the same habitat. While fox squirrels are generalist omnivores, the diet of Abert’s squirrels is unusually high in plant fiber, particularly in winter when they extensively consume fiber-rich inner bark of ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa). Consistent with previous studies, microbiota of the upper GI tract of both species consisted primarily of facultative anaerobes and was less diverse than that of the lower GI tract, which included mainly obligate anaerobes. While we found relatively little differentiation between the species in the microbiota of the upper GI tract, the community composition of the lower GI tract was clearly delineated. Notably, the Abert’s squirrel lower GI community was more stable in composition and enriched for microbes that play a role in the degradation of plant fiber. In contrast, overall microbial diversity was higher in fox squirrels. We hypothesize that these disparities reflect differences in diet quality and diet breadth between the species.